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CCOC Decision Summary

#07-12, Ortega v. Key West Condominium Association (January 9, 2013) (Panel: Fleischer, Coyle, Henderson)

The unit owner noticed water coming from the ceiling of her unit and called the association’s manager to report it.  The manager first inspected the unit above hers, and found all plumbing in order.  He then hired a contractor to open the ceiling of the unit to locate the source of the leak, and found that the leak was coming from a water pipe that served only the complainant’s unit.  He hired a plumber to fix the leak at the cost of $453, and a contractor to repair the damaged ceiling at a cost of $448.  (The plumber’s bill included a charge of $200 for a missed appointment.) 

The unit owner complained that the charges for the repairs were excessive and that the association should have offered her the opportunity to hire contractors of her choice to do the work at a lower cost.

The unit owner did not present any evidence (other than her own opinion, which the panel disregarded because she had no expertise in home repair costs) to support her claim that the costs were excessive; the association did present two estimates from other companies that showed they would have charged almost twice as much for the drywall work alone.

The association’s Declaration of Covenants required the unit owners to maintain their units as well as to maintain and repair any plumbing.  The Bylaws also authorize the association to enter and repair a common element at the unit owner’s cost if there is a defect which could damage the common elements.  However, the Bylaws also require that before the association can make repairs at the unit owner’s cost, its board of directors must first adopt a resolution authorizing the repairs and it must give advance notice to the unit owner of its intention to make the repairs.  In this case, the association made the repairs without a board resolution and without advance notice.

The hearing panel found that the unit owner requested the association to locate the leak.  She did not object to the association’s repairs, she did request estimates, and she did not insist on using her own contractor.

Moreover, the Condominium Act overrides the Bylaws to the extent it requires formal board authorization of the repairs and advance notice to the unit owner.  Section 11-114(g) of the Act states that the association must repair or replace any part of the condominium, including the units, which is damaged; it further states that if the cause of the damage comes from a unit, then the condominium can bill that unit’s owner the first $5000 of any repairs not covered by the insurance deductible.

However, the hearing panel did find the costs of repairs to be excessive because of the $200 missed appointment charge. The panel found no evidence that the unit owner was late for the repair appointment, and that on the contrary the plumber’s notes showed the correct appointment time as well as dispatch and completion times consistent with the unit owner’s testimony that the repairs were made at the time she had agreed to.

The panel upheld the association, but it reduced the total charges by $200 and ordered the unit owner to reimburse the association for the balance within 30 days. 



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